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Diego Velazquez’s Triumph of Bacchus Painting

by Ikenna Ngere

The Triumph of Bacchus is a painting by Diego Velázquez that is now housed in Madrid’s Museo del Prado. It is also known as Los Borrachos or The Drinkers (politely, The Drunks).

Velázquez painted The Triumph of Bacchus shortly after arriving in Madrid from Seville and before departing for Italy.

Velázquez painted the picture for Philip IV, who gave him 100 ducats for it. Bacchus is surrounded by drunks in the picture.

Velázquez had the opportunity to study the king’s collection of Italian paintings in Madrid, and he was undoubtedly struck by the nudity in many paintings, as well as the portrayal of mythical topics.

The Triumph of Bacchus has been hailed as Velázquez’s 1620s masterwork.


Bacchus is depicted in the piece as a figure at the heart of a little celebration, but his skin is paler than that of his companions, making him more easily identified.

Aside from the figure nude to the waist behind the god, the remainder of the group is dressed in the contemporary attire of poor people in 17th-century Spain.

Bacchus is depicted in the work as the god who rewards or gifts men with wine, temporarily relieving them of their woes.

Bacchus was regarded as an allegory of man’s deliverance from the servitude of daily life in Baroque literature.

The scene is divided into two sections. The highly luminous Bacchus figure appears on the left, his dominant yet comfortable attitude evocative of Christ in many Last Judgement scenarios, who is commonly represented reclining and naked to the waist.

Bacchus and the guy behind him are dressed in the usual loose robes associated with ancient mythology.

The clear light that illuminates the god in a more classicist approach emphasizes the idealization of his visage. The right side, on the other hand, features several drunkards, street men who encourage us to join their party, in the style of José de Ribera.

Though the figure kneeling in front of the god is younger and better dressed than the others, with a sword and towering boots, there is no idealization in their huge and worn-out faces. On this side, the light that illuminates Bacchus is missing; the characters are presented in chiaroscuro and have significantly darker complexion.

Velázquez used a realist approach to a mythological topic in this piece.

The bottle and pitcher on the ground near the god’s feet are examples of realism in this piece; Velázquez used the contrast of the god’s bright body to add relief and texture to the bottle and pitcher, creating something comparable to a still life.

These jars are remarkably similar to those seen in Velázquez’s paintings from his time in Seville, and the combination of still life components and naturalistic genre people alludes to the bodegon topics he painted there.

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